By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — A proposed base rate increase for the Colfax Rescue Squad would increase resident and non-resident base rates for basic life support and advanced life support by between $30 and $40.
The proposed base rate increase for 2017 is modest, said Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, at the rescue squad’s annual meeting August 23.
If the Colfax Village Board approves the rate increases, the resident base rate for basic life support (BLS) would go from $723.72 to $751.95, representing an increase of $28.23, according to information included with the rescue squad’s annual report.
The non-resident base rate for BLS would go from $876.25 to $910.42, representing an increase of $34.17.
The resident base rate for advanced life support (ALS) would go from $854.47 to $887.79, representing an increase of $33.32.
The non-resident base rate for ALS would go from $1,006.99 to $1,046.26, representing an increase of $39.27.
The mileage rate for residents would remain the same at $16.79, and the mileage rate for non-residents also would remain the same at $18.09.
The rate for refusing an ambulance after it has been called on scene also will remain the same at $196.12.
Knutson noted that patients will sometimes refuse the ambulance if someone else has called but the patient does not believe his or her medical condition warrants an ambulance.
In other instances, by the time the ambulance arrives, perhaps the bleeding has slowed down enough that the patient is willing to drive himself or herself to the hospital or wants someone else to drive but the patient does not want to go in the ambulance, he said.
A change in January in the way EMTs are paid has resulted in many more hours covered at the rescue squad, Knutson said.
In 2015, EMTs were paid $3.50 per hour for on-call along with a stipend if they went on an ambulance run.
Last year, the rescue squad had 3,666 hours hours of uncovered shifts, Knutson reported.
A year has 8,760 hours (24 hours times 365 days).
In January of this year, EMTs began being paid $7.25 per hour for basic EMTs and $7.75 per hour for advanced EMTs, Knutson said.
As of July, the rescue squad had logged 272 hours over the state-mandated minimum staffing levels, he said.
Prior to the change in the way EMTs are paid, Knutson said he and the part-time staff members volunteered many hours of their own time to cover shifts that were not covered.
As of the August 12, the Colfax Rescue Squad has gone out on 251 runs for 2016.
Thursdays account for the day of the week with the most ambulance runs at 45 to date.
Wednesdays are the next highest day with 43.
Fridays have accounted for 40 ambulance runs, while Saturdays have had 36 and Sundays have had 35.
Mondays have had the lowest rate of ambulance runs with 22 so far this year.
The age group 60 to 69 has had the highest number of ambulance runs at 51.
The next age group is 80 to 89 with 39 ambulance runs.
The third highest age group is 50 to 59 year-olds with 35 ambulance runs, followed by 70 to 79 year olds with 25 ambulance runs.
The age group with the fewest ambulance runs is ages 1 to 9 with three calls so far this year.
Ten year plan
Knutson also discussed his ten-year plan with the representatives of the municipalities served by the Colfax Rescue Squad.
In 2017, CRS plans to purchase a new desktop computer with a budgeted amount of $800.
Knutson said he had planned to replace the desktop computer this year, but received approval from the village board to instead purchase a ruggedized tablet for use in one of the ambulances.
CRS is beta-testing another tablet from the state so that both ambulances do have tablet computers, he noted.
Another 2017 purchase item is a scoop stretcher for $900.
Knutson’s ten-year plan tends to be flexible so that if a need arises earlier than anticipated, or if the item can go longer than anticipated before being replaced, Knutson adjusts the plan accordingly.
Although Knutson had planned to purchase eight pagers in 2017 for $2,400, the pagers have been moved to 2019.
Knutson anticipates replacing one of the ambulances in 2020 at an estimated cost of $160,000.
I Am Responding
This year, the Colfax Rescue Squad started using new software called “I Am Responding” that allows dispatch information to go to the EMTs’ cell phones.
The software tells the address to which the rescue squad has been dispatched, provides a Google map on how to get there, and allows EMTs to notify the ambulance crew if they are responding to the scene.
The “I Am Responding” program is running with almost all of the fire and EMS agencies in Dunn County, Knutson said.
The program also will do scheduling and will keep track of training, he said.
Over the past year, the Colfax Rescue Squad has received nearly $30,000 in grant money, Knutson said.
CRS has received funding for — and has put into service — two stair chairs with money from the Otto Bremer Foundation. The chairs reduce injuries to EMTs when moving patients to a different level of the residence or to another building, he said.
Grant money also funded the capability to administer nitrous oxide for pain control, Knutson said.
Prior to having nitrous oxide, Colfax EMTs had to intercept with another ambulance service in order for patients to obtain pain control. The nitrous oxide has worked to provide pain relief in about 60 percent of the cases, he said.
Some people are in so much pain that nitrous oxide will not help them at all, Knutson said.
The nitrous oxide is self-administered with a mask, he explained.
CRS was able to add intraosseous fluid administration this year as well.
IO allows EMTs to administer fluids into the bone when veins are not available, such as during cardiac arrest when the veins have collapsed, Knutson said.
The Colfax Rescue Squad has had the ability to administer intravenous fluids since 1998. The Easy IO allows EMTs to drill a needle into a bone to administer fluids and medication, he said.
Since there is some pain involved with drilling into a bone, IO is restricted to unresponsive patients, Knutson said.
Knutson said a large request to the Federal Emergency Management Administration is still pending for new cots that would eliminate lifting patients when loading and unloading into an ambulance.
The powered cots cost almost $30,000 each, he said.
Exhaust fume control is another issue for the rescue squad building.
Knutson said he had written a grant for exhaust fume control, but CRS was turned down.
When the ambulances are started in the ambulance bay, exhaust fumes stay in the building and tend to drift upstairs into the living quarters, Knutson said.
The exhaust fume control would draw the fumes outside, he said, pointing out that the cost of a system is around $25,000 to $30,000.
Here is the 2016 roster of the Colfax Rescue Squad and the EMTs’ years of service:
• Don Knutson (director) (advanced EMT) — 26 years.
• Roger Knutson (advanced EMT) — 24 years.
• James Osterman (advanced EMT) — 14 years.
• Scott Johnson (advanced EMT) — 10 years.
• Blake Miller — 1 year.
• Jared Miller — six months.
• Richard Henrichs (advanced EMT) — 9 years.
• Michelle Briggs (advanced EMT) — 3 years.
• Dawn Roberts (advanced EMT) — 12 years.
• Carrie Demuth — 2 years.
• Daniel LeMettry — 1 year.
• Jessica Erickson (advanced EMT) — 6 years.
• Jake Kreiner — 9 months.
• Travis Borreson (advanced EMT) — 6 years.
• Jerry Lofthus — 19 years.
• Joel Smith (advanced EMT) — 15 years.
• Lance Lofthus — 6 months.
• Gerald Favero — 9 years.
• Nick Mann (advanced EMT) — 6 years.
• Dustin Toellner — 2 years.
• Erin Geraghty — 1 year.
• Samantha Engler — 6 months.
• Gary Reither (advanced EMT) — 2 years.
• Tim Swenson (advanced EMT) — 13 years.
• Leah Suzan (advanced EMT) — 6 months.
• Peter Jain — 6 years.
• Chris Larson (firefighter who serves as an ambulance driver) — 6 years.
• David Shipman (firefighter who serves as an ambulance driver) — 6 years.
• Christina Solberg — first responder.
• Joe Solberg — first responder.
• Dan Smith — first responder.
• Quentin Popp — first responder.
• Tonya Schutts — first responder.